News: UK Muslims Go to Baghdad to Seek Hostage's Release
- UK Muslims seek hostage's release - From CNN.com - Saturday, September
KUWAIT CITY, Kuwait (Reuters) -- Prominent British Muslims arrived in
Kuwait on Saturday en route to Baghdad to plead for the release of
hostage Kenneth Bigley, nine days after the 62-year-old engineer was
"I believe and always maintain hope in the mercy of Allah," Daud
Abdullah, a member of the delegation from the Muslim Council of Britain
(MCB) told Reuters Television at Kuwait International Airport.
"And we are hopeful that Mr. Bigley is alive and that we will be able
to exert some influence with those who hold him hostage," he said. "We
have no reason to doubt that he is alive."
The kidnappers are threatening to kill Bigley unless women prisoners
held in Iraq are freed, but have set no deadline. They have already
beheaded two Americans seized with him.
An Islamist Web site, which has posted unsubstantiated claims about
hostages in the past, said on Saturday Bigley had been killed. The
British Foreign Office said it believed the Web site lacked credibility
and could not confirm such a claim.
A British embassy official told Reuters in Kuwait City the MCB
delegation members will fly shortly to Iraq via military aircraft from
Mubarak Air Base near the civilian airport. The air base is used by the
U.S.-led multinational forces in the Gulf Arab state.
Abdullah said the delegation hopes to meet with some of the religious
leaders and scholars in Iraq, including the leadership of the High
Association of Muslim Scholars.
"We are calling on those who are holding him to be merciful," Inayat
Bunglawala, a spokesman for MCB said earlier in Britain. The MCB is the
largest group representing Britain's 1.8 million Muslims.
"Our religion, Islam, does not allow us to harm the innocent and we
will urge them to release Ken Bigley back into the arms of his family."
The Muslim Association of Britain, an affiliate of the MCB, said it had
also appeared on Arabic television station Al Jazeera to make a direct
appeal to the kidnappers for Bigley's safe release.
The pleas came after the British government said it had distributed
50,000 leaflets in Baghdad, at the request of Bigley's family who want
to exhaust all means possible to save him from a group led by al Qaeda
ally Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
"A family man called Ken Bigley is being held somewhere in your
community," said the leaflet in Arabic. "Ken's mother, brothers, wife
and child love him dearly. We are appealing for your help."
An Iraqi company went round Baghdad on Thursday handing out the
leaflet, which had numbers for the British Embassy and local police,
officials at the Foreign Office in London said.
"We appeal to those who have taken him to please return him safely to
us. Do you know where he is?" the leaflet added.
Prime Minister Tony Blair, to whom Bigley appealed in a videotape, has
kept quiet for fear of inflaming the crisis.
That stance has contrasted with French President Jacques Chirac's
public appeals for the release of two French journalists being held
Bigley's relatives have accused the government of not doing enough to
save him, but now seem to have accepted London's line that it cannot
negotiate for fear of encouraging future kidnaps.
Blair was at his Chequers country residence on Friday, preparing a
speech to next week's conference of his ruling Labour Party, sure to be
dominated by Iraq.
Since sending British troops to take part in the U.S.-led invasion in
March 2003, Blair's popularity has plummeted.
The Bigley kidnapping has come just as he believed he had turned a
corner and could re-focus Britons on domestic issues ahead of an
election expected next May.